Congress Must Embrace These 5 Principles to Create a More Responsible Budget

With this week’s release of President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget, the congressional appropriations season is officially underway.

Although discretionary appropriations only account for one-third of the federal budget, they are critical in reducing the size and role of the government and provide an opportunity to make a down payment towards the national debt.

Since it was mere weeks ago that fiscal year 2017 appropriations were finalized, it is hard to be optimistic about the prospects for 2018.

Nevertheless, Congress should look to the following principles as it begins its important work on the budget:

1. Stick to the Budget Control Act Caps

The Budget Control Act was passed in 2011 with the intention of reducing total spending by more than $2 trillion and controlling the growth of federal programs. To do so, it adopted discretionary caps for defense and nondefense categories, enforced by automatic cuts (called sequestration), as well as a mandatory spending sequestration.

While the law has been moderately successful in controlling discretionary spending, Congress has undermined its effectiveness by amending the spending caps each year of their existence.

In 2013, implementation of the sequester was delayed for several months as part of the fiscal cliff deal and for 2014-2017 the caps were raised again, first by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 and later by the Obama-Boehner budget deal.

With total discretionary funding set to decrease by $6 billion in 2018, there is likely to be a desire from some in Congress to pass another budget deal that raises the spending caps.

Congress must resist this urge to spend more and should pursue prudent cuts, or stick to the current levels, at the very least. The president’s budget proposes a total discretionary spending level of $1.1 billion, in line with the Budget Control Act caps. This is the maximum level of funding that Congress should support in 2018.

2. Break the Spending Firewall and Fully Fund Defense

As part of the Budget Control Act, discretionary spending was arbitrarily divided into defense and nondefense categories. Providing for national defense is the primary responsibility envisioned by the Founding Fathers when they established our government.

Trump’s budget calls for abandoning the defense and nondefense categories, instead raising defense spending by $54 billion and offsetting that increase with cuts to domestic programs. That’s the fiscally responsible way to properly prioritize among competing demands for taxpayer dollars.

The increase proposed by the resident is the minimum needed to begin rebuilding a stronger military. According to the Heritage Foundation director of the Center for National Defense, “This increase on its own is insufficient to begin the rebuilding. It simply represents an ‘on-ramp’ to rebuilding.”

The Budget Control Act cap on defense spending has been a detriment to our national security and must be abandoned. Congress should adopt the level of funding needed to fully equip our military against growing threats worldwide.

These increases should be offset by the reduction or elimination of inefficient domestic programs that limit individual and economic freedom and that have usurped functions that are better left to the private sector, and states and localities.

3. Return to Regular Order

The last time that Congress passed all 12 annual appropriations bills prior to the start of the fiscal year was 1996. Instead, lawmakers continue to rely on continuing resolutions and massive omnibus spending bills. This is not an effective way to govern and it does a disservice to taxpayers.

With the president’s budget delayed more than three months and Congress not expected to release its own budgets until at least mid-June, Congress is already way behind schedule.

Regardless of the late start, Congress should look to pass as many appropriations bills as possible, starting with Department of Defense appropriations, through regular order. Following the congressional budget process facilitates a higher level of debate and increased oversight and accountability over federal government programs and agencies.

4. Stop Providing Appropriations for Unauthorized Purposes

In fiscal year 2016, Congress provided more than $310 billion in appropriations to unauthorized agencies and programs. Authorizing programs is a key component of Congress’ oversight responsibility. It provides an opportunity to examine and prioritize the activities that receive taxpayer dollars carefully. Lack of oversight has contributed to increased spending and rising debt levels.

Congress should immediately stop providing unauthorized appropriations and return accountability to the budget process.

5. Seize the Opportunity for reform.

Congress must use the fiscal year 2018 appropriations process as an opportunity to reassert its commitment to control spending. Congress should reject any attempt to increase the overall discretionary spending level.

Defense should be the highest priority and needed increases should be fully offset with cuts to nondefense programs. With republicans in control of the White House and Congress, there is no better time than now to pursue a conservative budget.

The Heritage Foundation’s “Blueprint for Balance” lays out more than 100 discretionary policy options that could be implemented in 2018, saving taxpayers $87 billion in 2018 alone.

Continuing the failed policies and spending addiction of the past few years is not the answer. (For more from the author of “Congress Must Embrace These 5 Principles to Create a More Responsible Budget” please click HERE)

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The Education Budget Has a Lot to Love and a Little to Critique

The Trump administration’s full budget for education for fiscal year 2018 would make some long-overdue cuts at the Department of Education.

The proposal targets reductions in spending totaling $9 billion–a 13 percent cut in the agency’s current $68 billion annual budget. That type of reduction signals a serious commitment to reducing federal intervention in education–a necessary condition to make space for a restoration of state and local control.

Program Eliminations and Spending Reductions

The budget proposal includes actual reductions in spending and program count. As Andrew Ujifusa at EdWeek reported, it would be the largest single-year percentage cut in the department’s discretionary budget since President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 budget proposal.

In recognition that many federal education programs are better supported–and appropriately supported–by state and local as well as private funds, the budget would eliminate several competitive grant programs. It would cut the Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments for Federal Property, and International Education programs. It would also eliminate some larger programs that are overdue for re-examination.

Eliminates 21st Century Community Learning Centers. The budget would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program (21st CCLC), which appropriates federal taxpayer funding to after school programs during non-school hours.

Not only is this not an appropriate activity in which the federal government should engage, but there is no evidence that the program, started in 1994, is improving outcomes for participants.

Rigorous scientific evaluations of the program have found that the 21stCCLC program failed to improve homework outcomes for participants and had harmful impacts on academic and behavioral outcomes.

As my colleague David Muhlhausen has written, “advocates of evidence-based policy should applaud the president’s fiscally responsible decision” to eliminate this ineffective and inappropriate federal program.

Zeroes-out Title IV funding. The budget would eliminate a new program created under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the successor to No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

The program, known as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant, authorized at up to $1.6 billion (appropriated at $400 million last year), is designed to bolster technology and student health efforts, among other purposes. The budget correctly identifies new programs added under ESSA as growing, rather than reducing, federal intervention in education, and eliminates funding.

Eliminates Title IIA grants. The budget also eliminates Title IIA of the Every Student Succeeds Act–the Supporting Effective Instruction program, which appropriates some $2.4 billion in federal taxpayer dollars to teacher professional development programs and for class size reduction.

As with the other programs this budget zeroes-out funding for, teacher professional development programs are not the purview of the federal government. And evidence suggests there is little return on investment from teacher professional development programs or class size reduction as a means of improving student academic achievement.

Federal Funding for New School Choice Programs

The budget would establish two new federal forays into funding school choice–an effort that should be reserved for state and local governments.

Additional money for Title I. The budget would establish a new grant program under Title I totaling $1 billion, with the goal of allowing students to take this new funding to public schools of choice.

Title I is the largest federal K-12 education program, and is designed to provide additional federal funds to low-income school districts. Spending on Title I has grown significantly in recent years.

The additional $1 billion Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success (FOCUS) program would take Title I spending up to nearly $16 billion ($15.9 billion), up from $12.8 billion just a decade ago. Instead of giving states an option on Title I portability within the existing confines and spending of the program (a worthwhile policy goal), enabling students to use funds at a school of choice, this appears to be a new sub-program established under Title I.

Launching yet another new program at the federal level moves in the wrong direction, growing–rather than reducing–federal intervention in K-12 education.

New funding for research grants and voucher programs. The budget also increases spending under the Education Innovation and Research Fund, from $100 million to $370 million, in order to study the impact of school choice, and potentially to expand school choice.

The federal government is not the appropriate vehicle for studying state-based school choice programs. Scholars across the country conduct high-quality, rigorous assessments of state-based school choice programs, and those individuals and teams should remain at the forefront of that work.

The $370 million would also be available to advance private school of choice. Although choice is worthwhile policy, it should be done at the state and local level, not through new federal spending via a program designed for research and evaluation.

The Trump administration has outlined a budget that rightly downsizes spending and program count at the Department of Education–a long-overdue step that can pave the way for a restoration of state and local control of education.

And in that spirit, school choice should also remain a state and local endeavor, save for federal spending related to military-connected children, children attending Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools, and children residing in the District of Columbia. One balance, reductions in spending and program count show an education budget that moves in the right direction. (For more from the author of “The Education Budget Has a Lot to Love and a Little to Critique” please click HERE)

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Sources: Democratic Aide Suspected of Major Security Breach Under Government Protection in Pakistan

A criminal suspect in an investigation into a major security breach on the House of Representatives computer network has abruptly left the country and gone to Pakistan, where her family has significant assets and VIP-level protection, a relative and others told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.

Hina Alvi, her husband Imran Awan, and his brothers Abid and Jamal were highly paid shared IT administrators working for multiple House Democrats until their access to congressional IT systems was terminated Feb. 2 as a result of the investigation. Capitol Police confirmed the investigation is ongoing, but no arrests have been reported in the case.

The Awans are “accused of stealing equipment from members’ offices without their knowledge and committing serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network,” according to Politico.

Many of the Democrats who employed the Awans are members of the House Committee on Homeland Security, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Their positions gave them access to members’ emails and confidential files. In addition, Imran was given the password for an iPad used by then-Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat. (Read more from “Sources: Democratic Aide Suspected of Major Security Breach Under Government Protection in Pakistan” HERE)

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Moving On From Congressional Pedophiles: Now House IT Aides Suspected of Blackmailing Members With Their Own Data

Congressional technology aides are baffled that data-theft allegations against four former House IT workers — who were banned from the congressional network — have largely been ignored, and they fear the integrity of sensitive high-level information.

Imran Awan and three relatives were colleagues until police banned them from computer networks at the House of Representatives after suspicion the brothers accessed congressional computers without permission.

Five Capitol Hill technology aides told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group that members of Congress have displayed an inexplicable and intense loyalty towards the suspects who police say victimized them. The baffled aides wonder if the suspects are blackmailing representatives based on the contents of their emails and files, to which they had full access.

“I don’t know what they have, but they have something on someone. It’s been months at this point” with no arrests, said Pat Sowers, who has managed IT for several House offices for 12 years. “Something is rotten in Denmark.”

A manager at a tech-services company that works with Democratic House offices said he approached congressional offices, offering their services at one-fourth the price of Awan and his Pakistani brothers, but the members declined. At the time, he couldn’t understand why his offers were rejected but now he suspects the Awans exerted some type of leverage over members. (Read more from “House IT Aides Fear Suspects in Hill Breach Are Blackmailing Members With Their Own Data” HERE)

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Anti-Trump Leaks Are Against the Law. So Where’s the Investigation?

A lot of people even in the White House are leaking stories to hurt Donald Trump. Are they committing felonies? If the information they give to the media affects national security, then yes.

Disclosing classified information relating to U.S. or foreign communications intelligence activities is a felony. The leaker can go to prison for 10 years and be fined as well.

It May Still Be a Felony

But even if it doesn’t rise to that level, it may still be a felony. Federal employees can’t reveal confidential information to the press without permission. It’s considered theft to convey “any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof.” It carries the same stiff penalty. Additionally, federal employees are generally subject to nondisclosure agreements.

Every presidential administration leaks. Sometimes the leakers rightly expose wrongful behavior. Many are protected by whistleblower laws. Look at Watergate.

What’s different now is the scope. The Washington Post ran an article on President Trump firing FBI Director James Comey based on “the private accounts of more than 30 officials at the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI and on Capitol Hill, as well as Trump confidants and other senior Republicans.”

Conservative writer Jonah Goldberg talked to reporters who say the leaks are in part due to the lack of experience of many working at the White House.

That may explain a few of the leaks. But for the most part, they seem “coordinated and timed” to hurt Trump. That’s what the administration believes. The Trump campaign sent an email to supporters entitled “SABOTAGE,” condemning the leaks. And in a tweet, the president complained that he’d been asking the FBI and others to investigate the leaks, apparently without success.

Some of the leaks may not even be leaks, but made-up stories to make the president look bad. Making false statements in the course of a federal investigation is a felony. Trump has tweeted that he believes the leaks rise to the level of crimes.

The Most Important Leaks

What are the most important leaks? First, the leaks after Trump fired FBI director James Comey. Some aides told the media that Trump did it to stop the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russians to influence the presidential election.

As a result, Congress stepped up its own probe into Trump, and pressure mounted to appoint an independent investigator. Trump agreed to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller for this task last week.

The second example is the leaks saying Trump had provided highly classified information about ISIS to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. The leaker gave the story to The Washington Post. He said it put an intelligence source at risk.

Yet that is merely the leaker’s opinion. Besides, Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster (quoted in the story) said that he was in the meeting and Trump said nothing that wasn’t already public. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly,” he said.

Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser, who was also at the meeting, said, “This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson explained, “During that exchange the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”

Trump defended his conversation on Twitter, “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

So, do you trust the leaker — who probably dislikes Trump and has an agenda to make the president look bad. Or do you trust Trump and the top-level officials around him who were at the meeting?

The New York Times confirmed that Israel was the source of the information. That means that if the leaker was correct about the seriousness of the information, he (or she) may have put national security at risk by revealing it.

Leaks About Michael Flynn

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is suspected of leaking classified information to the press regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn lying to Vice President Mike Pence about talking to the Russian ambassador.

Again, releasing this information could jeopardize U.S.-Russian relations. If Russia believes its private conversations are going to be made public, it may be less willing to cooperate with the U.S.

Lack of Outrage Over Leaks

There hasn’t been much outrage over the leaks. Instead, the mainstream media, Congress and the FBI are focusing on the substance of the leaks. Concern is directed at whether Trump did anything wrong. So far, there has been no evidence Trump has. The leaks are compared to Watergate — but no evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing has emerged. Each new leak accuses the president of a different type of crime but nothing sticks.

The mainstream media seems so intent on taking Trump down that they risk running information that may be classified and harmful. While the laws against leaking don’t generally apply to journalists, journalists can be prosecuted for failing to reveal the source of the leak. Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to divulge the source of the Valerie Plame leak, Scooter Libby. “They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name,” Trump said during a speech in February. “Let their name be put out there.”

There are three separate probes of Trump — by Congress, the FBI and the newly appointed special investigator Mueller. Shouldn’t there be at least one probe into the likely criminal leaks? (For more from the author of “Anti-Trump Leaks Are Against the Law. So Where’s the Investigation?” please click HERE)

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Tillerson Says Tel Aviv Is ‘Home of Judaism.’ It’s Not

Before his plane even touched down in Israel Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson managed to insult the people of Israel — and Jews worldwide — by referring to Tel Aviv as the “home of Judaism.”

On the flight from Saudi Arabia to Israel, during a Q & A session with reporters, Tillerson commented: “On to the second stop, Tel Aviv, home of Judaism.”

Tel Aviv is not the home of Judaism. Though a popular tourist destination and the centerpiece of Israel’s bustling entrepreneurial environment, Tel Aviv does not have the religious significance that Jerusalem has. Jerusalem is home to the holiest sites in Judaism.

Tillerson had no government experience before becoming secretary of state, and his lack of basic knowledge on geopolitical issues has acted as a detriment to the Trump administration’s foreign policy.

During his conversation with reporters, Tillerson, refused to recognize that the holiest site in Jerusalem is part of Israel. The Western Wall is “in Jerusalem,” Tillerson told reporters, stating the obvious geographic fact, but refusing to note Israel’s sovereignty over it.

The secretary of state has been perhaps the most hostile Trump cabinet member to the Jewish state.

Last week, Tillerson appeared to renege on the administration’s campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Instead of recognizing Israel’s sovereign capital, Tillerson used the embassy dilemma as a bargaining chip for a future “peace initiative” with the Palestinians.

“Well, the president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have,” Tillerson said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” last week.

His hostile comments generated a response from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who reminded the world that Jerusalem is indeed Israel’s capital, and that not recognizing it empowers radical extremists.

During the NBC interview, Tillerson referred to a nonexistent “Palestine,” instead of correctly stating that there are Palestinian territories — not an independent state of Palestine.

Tillerson’s State Department refuses to even recognize that Israel has a claim to Jerusalem, its capital city.

“Since 1948, every administration has taken the official position that no state has sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians,” a State Department official told Conservative Review last week.

Secretary of State Tillerson is reportedly part of a contingent that is advising President Trump not to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The former oil executive is very friendly with the Arab regimes in the Middle East, particularly the autocracies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. (For more from the author of “Tillerson Says Tel Aviv Is ‘Home of Judaism.’ It’s Not” HERE)

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Faux Life? Why a Texas ‘Pro-Life’ Org Fought a Dismemberment Ban

A proposed law to stop a gruesome abortion procedure has made its way through the Texas state legislature, but it is running into some surprising opposition from an organization that bills itself as pro-life.

A provision to ban the performance of dismemberment (also known as D&E and D&X) abortions, except in the case of a “medical emergency,” passed the state senate back in March and the House on Friday.

However, some of the opposition to the bill’s passage might surprise anyone not familiar with abortion politics in the Lone Star State. While pushback from major pro-abortion groups is to be expected, one pro-life group has been actively campaigning against the measure. Texas Alliance for Life, and its executive director, Joe Pojman, spent months leading up to the final House vote, recommending that the legislature reject the ban on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

For reference, this is exactly what happens during a dismemberment abortion:

During one of these procedures, the preborn child is ripped apart in utero before being pulled out through the birth canal piece-by-piece.

But efforts to ban the practice have been thus far opposed by Pojman’s group, which sent out a letter to state legislators urging them to vote against the measure.

Furthermore, for an organization that is dedicated to “protect[ing] innocent human life from conception through natural death through peaceful, legal means,” Texas Alliance for Life stood alone in its opposition to the bill, as several other pro-life organizations lined up behind the legislation.

If the measure were to become law, the letter speculates to lawmakers, “it would not survive a federal court challenge” because of rulings in previous cases, even though the ruling would occur in the 5th Circuit (which is perhaps the most friendly court in the federal system because of its makeup).

Empower Texans, a conservative state-level grassroots organization, explains on its website that Texas Alliance for Life’s Joe Pojman testified on the bill before the committee in February, and recommended that the legislature not pass it, alongside activists from the National Abortion Rights Action League, better known as NARAL.

“Pojman’s remarks today plant dangerous land mines in the way of any legal strategy to defend SB 415 if it passes and is challenged in court,” said Tony McDonald, Empower Texans’ general counsel, at the time. “Abortion groups will use Pojman’s testimony as a ‘confession’ that SB 415 is so ‘extreme’ that even pro-life groups are opposing it.”

And that very thing happened at the 11th hour.

Prior to the vote on Friday, Jessica Farrar, a staunchly pro-abortion Democrat state representative, invoked Pojman’s testimony while speaking in against the provision, which was attached as an amendment to a larger legislative package, on the House floor.

“Are you aware that Texas Alliance for Life testified against this bill in the senate committee?” Farrar publicly asked of Republican Representative Stephanie Klick, contending that the measure was “unconstitutional.”

Pojman responded to Empower Texans’ claims, calling them inaccurate and saying that his testimony was “on” the bill and that he did not take a side (before diving into his reasons for not supporting the bill).

Texas Right to Life Legislative Director John Seago disputes the assertions, however, saying that they are based on what he calls a “fundamental flaw their assessment of the policy” that runs parallel to many pro-abortion criticism of the legislation.

Counter to such judicial concerns, the prevailing reasoning among many pro-life advocates in favor of outlawing the procedure argues that – since the legislation bans a procedure outright – it would fall in line with the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling that upheld the 2003 national partial-birth abortion ban, off of which Seago says the current language in Austin is based.

“[Opponents] have read the bill and understand the bill to be prohibiting all D+E abortions,” Seago told Conservative Review. “That is a gross mischaracterization of the bill, just like the partial birth abortion ban doesn’t prohibit all late abortions; it prohibits one specific procedure.”

“Some pro-lifers are worried about going to court,” he says, admitting that any such litigation is a gamble on some level. “But we understand, the pro-life movement lives in the shadow of Roe v. Wade and the only way we’re going to take down this legal edifice is by working in the courts,” like it did with the partial-birth ban.

“That doesn’t worry us,” Seago said. “That’s how the movement has to move forward.”

“I can’t understand TAL’s objections to a dismemberment ban — I don’t get it at all,” says JoAnn Fleming, executive director of Grassroots America, who has been a conservative activist in Texas for over 20 years.

“I’ve seen the objection about how the court will unravel it and this, that and the other, that and the other,” she adds, but “If we have to fight for life in the courts, then we simply take the fight to the courts. We don’t withdraw from that fight just because we might have to do battle in court.”

To Pojman’s assertions that the current legislation will not save any lives in effect, Seago points to similar criticisms made about the partial birth debate and of pain-capable bills, which have both proven to decrease abortion rates.

However, critics say aren’t surprised by TAL’s opposition to the ban, as they say the group has previously fought to either dilute or otherwise obfuscate pro-life legislation in the state. Republican Representative and Texas Freedom Caucus member Matt Rinaldi claims that the group has sought to water down other legislation before, such as the original version of a 2011 sonogram bill.

“They’ll pick bills [to support] that don’t really accomplish much,” explains Rinaldi. “They act as a cover group for leadership in killing pro-life reforms.”

Rinaldi tells Conservative Review that he views Texas Alliance’s efforts to weaken or oppose stronger pro-life bills as “disgusting,” mainly because they are supported by funds from pro-life donors.

“Their donors and supports don’t realize that they’re being had,” Rinaldi said. “I think it’s despicable.”

Responding to Rinaldi’s statements, Pojman put forward TAL’s list of legislative priorities this session, calling the agenda both “aggressive and substantive.”

“Our goal is to protect unborn children from abortions throughout pregnancy,” reads an emailed statement from Pojman to Conservative Review. “However, we do not recommend that the Legislature pass the dismemberment ban this session because it will not sustain an inevitable court challenge. There are not sufficient votes on the US Supreme Court to uphold it.”

Meanwhile, the group’s critics say, the organization also provides cover for establishment Republicans who would rather not take the heat for voting in favor of stronger pro-life legislation, but still want to don a pro-life mantle come election time.

Chronicling documented financial exchange between House leadership and TAL, Empower Texans’ executive director Michael Q. Sullivan wrote in a 2015 op-ed at Breitbart News that the group’s rhetoric about the pro-life bona fides of certain members of the legislative leadership – most notably state Speaker Joe Straus – did an “about face” following a large influx of cash to the nonprofit’s political action committee. Pojman responded to Sullivan, calling the assertions “misinformation.”

Disagreements over how to best protect the unborn, however, are not specific to a few policy groups in the Lone Star State nor a single dismemberment bill, Seago told CR. Rather, they are endemic of a tactical split in the pro-life movement as a whole.

Whereas some pro-life organizations develop their political priorities based on where the movement needs to go, he says, “Unfortunately, all I’ve seen some pro-life groups in Texas and other states do is show up and see what the politicians give them” and then tout those items as priorities.

“You can’t just give [elected officials] cover,” Seago says against this approach. “The pro-life movement really has to objectively determine where we need to go and then hold our politicians accountable.” (For more from the author of “Faux Life? Why a Texas ‘Pro-Life’ Org Fought a Dismemberment Ban” please click HERE)

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Newt Gingrich Spreads Seth Rich Murder Theory

Newt Gingrich claimed that a Democratic National Committee staffer “apparently was assassinated” after “having given WikiLeaks something like … 53,000 [DNC] emails and 17,000 attachments.” But there’s no evidence for his claim.

The former Republican House speaker is spreading a conspiracy theory about the killing of Seth Rich, who was shot to death in Washington, D.C., in the early morning hours of July 10, 2016, in what local police have described as a likely botched robbery.

The unsubstantiated claim about Rich’s murder got legs recently after Fox 5 in Washington, D.C., reported — and a day later largely retracted — that the FBI completed a forensic report on Rich’s computer and found that he had transferred 44,053 DNC emails and 17,761 attachments to WikiLeaks.

Fox 5 aired those details on the morning of May 16, based on the work of a private investigator, Rod Wheeler, who was hired by a third party with the consent of Rich’s family. But later that evening, Wheeler told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he had no evidence that Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks.

“Maybe it is related to the DNC. We don’t know that. We don’t know that for sure,” Wheeler told Hannity. “It could have been a botched robbery.” (Read more from “Newt Gingrich Spreads Seth Rich Murder Theory” HERE)

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Report: China Crippled CIA Operations, Killed Informants

The Chinese government “systematically dismantled” CIA spying operations in China starting in late 2010 and killed or imprisoned at least a dozen CIA sources over the next two years, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The newspaper cited 10 current and former U.S. officials, who described the intelligence breach as one of the worst in decades. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

The report said U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies scrambled to stem the damage, but were bitterly divided over the cause of the breach. Some investigators were convinced there was a mole within the CIA, while others believed the Chinese had hacked the covert system the CIA used to communicate with its foreign sources. The debate remains unresolved, the paper said. (Read more from “Report: China Crippled CIA Operations, Killed Informants” HERE)

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Texas House Approves Amended Bathroom Bill

The Texas House approved an amended version of a proposed bathroom bill Sunday. Legislators had been threatened with a special session if the measure didn’t pass.

The Texas Privacy Act, or Senate Bill 6, passed the state Senate in March but faced House opposition. The act would have limited restroom use according to biological sex in public schools and government buildings. It also would have prevented city governments from passing opposing ordinances.

But the measure that passed the House 91-50 was narrowed down to address public schools exclusively. Language crafted by Republican Rep. Chris Paddie was tacked on to Senate Bill 2078, a measure dealing with schools’ emergency operations.

The amended language requires students use facilities according to their biological sex. Students who identify as members of the opposite sex may use single-occupancy facilities.

Final approval on the bill is expected Monday. It will then head back to the Senate for approval of the bathroom language changes. Abbott is expected to sign the bill. In April, he finally broke his long silence on the issue.

“I will work with the House and Senate to ensure we find a solution and ultimately get a bill to my desk that I will sign into law,” he said.

Hot Debate

Senate Bill 6 and its subsequent versions have seen heated opposition.

On Sunday, Democratic Rep. Senfronia Thompson compared the House’s version to Jim Crow laws. “White. Colored. I was living through that era … bathrooms divided us then, and it divides us now,” she said.

Paddie disagreed, claiming the bill did not discriminate. “It’s absolutely about child safety,” he said.

Supporters of a Texas bathroom bill have insisted their intent is not to discriminate. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick previously called SB 6 “a common sense, privacy and public safety policy for everyone.” The bill’s author, Sen. Lois Koklhorst, said it was an effort to “strike a balance to protect all of us when we find ourselves in the intimate spaces, vulnerable spaces.”

The original measure was also intended to provide additional guidance in light of move by President Donald Trump. In February Trump rescinded an Obama-era policy mandating schools allow students who identify as members of the opposite sex to use the bathroom of their choice. Schools that didn’t comply were threatened with loss of federal funding.

“This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” Education Secretary Betsy Devos said at the time. Kolkhorst said that made guidance for Texas schools “even more important.”

House Speaker Republican Joe Straus previously voiced opposition to any kind of bathroom bill. He said he thought such a bill would hurt Texas business. News media widely reported negative repercussions to North Carolina’s economy after its government passed the controversial bathroom bill known as House Bill 2. But North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest disputed those reports in a press conference supporting SB 6.

Nevertheless, Straus’ fears about the economy were allayed with the passing of SB 2078. According to The Texas Tribune, he didn’t think the measure would drastically change schools’ existing approach to accommodating students who identify as members of the opposite sex. It also “avoid[s] the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6.” (For more from the author of “Texas House Approves Amended Bathroom Bill” please click HERE)

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